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I got a Motorola MOTOROKR E6 a few weeks ago.  While the phone's name might lead you to believe that it's but a sequel to the ill-fated MOTOROKR E1 (aka The iTunes Phone) and the less well-known ROKR E2, the E6 actually represents the furthering of an entirely different arm of Motorola's mobile telephone division:  The hackable Linux handset.

While the E6 is a music-centric handset - part of what attracted me to it was the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, but more on that later this week - it's also the newest member of Moto's Linux handset line.  Like the MOTOMING A1200, the E6 runs on the EZX platform, a Linux-based operating system that's open to third-party application development.  Though Moto isn't making the source code easy to come by, it is technically open source and at least one developer has successfully gained access to the innards of the EZX operating system.

Me, I've been happy to follow some hacks outlined by the knowledgeable folks at Motorolafans.com, including a relatively easy one that turns the tri-band GSM E6 into a more U.S.-friendly Quad-Band phone.  While my ultimate goal is developing a new virtual keyboard interface for better touchscreen message composition, that may ultimately prove a bit beyond my reach:  I "bricked" my E6 while attempting a mere load of a Theme Manager application.  Thankfully it seems that Motorola has fixed the phone and I should have it back soon for another round of "n00b haxoring" (that is, low-level hacking by a 'newbie'). 

A general Web trend towards community-based open source development is gaining some momentum — see thinkcycle.org, illuminator.mophie.com, and dellideastorm.com, to name just a few examples.  It'd be great to see a robust open-source community grow around a mobile handset or platform.  Motorola's EZX has that potential, and the MOTOROKR E6 is just the slim, sexy touchscreen phone to generate some interest in the project.  Unfortunately the phone isn't officially designated for the US market and thus only available through importers and on ebay (Moto wouldn't send me a review sample since it's a non-US model, hence my buying one online).

If the forthcoming Chumby "widget clock" (chumby.com) and Neonode N2 open-source phone (neonode.com) catch fire, we may in fact see a surge in "hackable" products designed to leverage their users' ingenuity and programming skills in order to extend their capabilities.  I, for one, would be much more excited to this - technology truly in the hands of its users - than more crippled feature sets and watered down "innovation" courtesy of the major service providers.


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